How I Illustrated “Queen Kingsley Conjures The Dragons”

This post is mostly visual, but I will stop to add a comment here and there. I want to show you the visual process I followed, and generally follow, when illustrating. This example is for “Queen Kingsley Conjures The Dragons.”

Kingsley, my son (4), is … awesome. He oozes with creativity and is unencumbered by any sort of notion of normal or tradition out there. I adore that in him. I know that is partly being 4, but it’s also partly being raised to be his true self, and to do whatever it is that he feels like doing (provided, of course, it doesn’t harm anyone else). But, this isn’t a parenting post – it’s an illustrating post, so I digress. Kingsley decided that he was going to be the queen, and he fashioned himself a paper crown, and then named each of us in the family and made each of us a crown as well. Well, that’s only a half-truth. In realty, he made me the jester, and gave me a jester’s hat that he invented. He’s awesome, remember?


I took a photo of him and I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome it was. I knew it would be a great start to an illustration, so the next day I sat down to sketch. Naturally, he joined me, and with some advice from him and his younger brother Magnus, this original sketch was born:

I sent this to my critique partner, thinking, “It’s cute, it’ll do.” Of course, she always smartens me up and pushes me to do a bit more. From that conversation, these thumbnail sketches were born. If you don’t illustrate or know what this means, it’s simply a way of planning space to see if you can take your original idea and make it better.

Eventually, I took my favourite pieces and turned them into this rough sketch:

Then, I refined. I did the background and the character separately, and merged them in Photoshop.

This first version, while *adorable*, just didn’t work with the composition of the background. After trying a few different solutions, I decided that ultimately, I needed to redraw him in a new pose.

As you can see in the one on the right, it had a better curve and the raised leg provided more tension and action. This would be required to play against the already very busy background image.

Once merged, it looked like this:

I was – and am – in love with these pencil lines. If you ask me, a mechanical pencil is the single-most superior drawing tool available.

Next, I did a value study:

And then, I got painting. I used mostly Multiply layers, and went in with a normal layer to clean up some spots. Below are some snapshots along the way as I painted.

And then, I cleaned everything up.

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